Sri Lanka`s army said it advanced along the battlefront south of the headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam after capturing a strategic town from rebel forces earlier this week.
Soldiers entered the southwest of Mullaitivu district, three days after taking the town of Mallavi, which served as an LTTE administrative center in the region, the Defense Ministry said on its Web site yesterday.
Intercepted rebel radio transmissions said 74 Tamil Tigers were killed in fighting, including a commander of LTTE intelligence, the army said in a statement. The LTTE said earlier this week its forces carried out attacks to prevent army advances, killing 75 soldiers, according to TamilNet.
The army is mounting almost daily attacks in the north, driving the Tamil Tigers back toward their headquarters in Kilinochchi. The LTTE, which has fought for 25 years for an independent homeland in Sri Lanka`s north and east, lost control of the eastern region a year ago and now holds bases only in the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts.
An LTTE commander, identified by rebel radio transmissions as Lieutenant Colonel Neelawannan, was killed during fighting earlier this week, the Media Center for National Security said in a statement on its Web site.
Army artillery shells struck the main A-9 north-south highway in Kilinochchi on Sept. 3, hitting a compound containing humanitarian aid, the LTTE`s Peace Secretariat said in an e- mailed statement today.
The army offensives and bombing raids have forced more than 113,000 people from their homes in the north, the secretariat said last month. The group has accused the air force of dropping bombs in civilian areas, a charge the government rejects.
The army estimates the LTTE still has about 5,000 personnel. Some defense analysts have put the figure as high as 10,000 and say the Tigers are able to roam freely in most of the 4,000 square kilometers (1,544 square miles) of jungle terrain comprising the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts.
The LTTE has called up reserves and ex-fighters and is training civilians in Wanni to fight the army, according to Sri Lankan press reports.